A question I am frequently asked is, “What system should we buy?” In VRM Intel’s “Changing Your Technology Provider: What You Need to Know” (October 2015), Tom K and I outlined some in-depth methodology to finding that answer.
However, it is also quite possible that the answer to that question is – The one you already have!
Getting the Most Out of Your Existing System
When you purchased your current property management system (PMS), hopefully, you went through a Come out from under the rock, take a look at the latest version of your software and see what it does. thorough process to select the best one for your needs following with a comprehensive Installation and Training process. You fully understood the capabilities of the software and were using it in the best possible way for your business.
What about now? Let’s explore some of the ways you can maximize the benefit of what you already have.
Come Out from Under the Rock and Get the Latest Release
It may be surprising, but most companies never evaluate the systems they have once they are installed. They “do it this way because that’s how the system has to work.” Many companies have been saying that for more than a decade, yet the new versions of their product have evolved beyond recognition.
It probably won’t save you money on your car insurance, but you may be pleasantly surprised at what it can do for your business.
Seek Out New Features
Some of my most successful clients were the ones who met with us every year to evaluate the new things that had been added to the system. These clients made a point of trying to stay up to date on how the software was evolving and adapted their business practices where relevant.
You will go through this process whenever you change software because a new system will not work exactly the same way. Why not consider an annual review of your current system to see how it can benefit you in areas you had not thought of before? The cost of doing this will be significantly less than buying a new system.
New Tools & Add-Ons
One of the fastest growing segments of technology innovation in the vacation rental industry is coming from third-party vendors in the form of tools and add-ons for Email Marketing, Price and Yield Management, Mobile Guest Apps, Housekeeping and Inspections (to name a few).
These third-party tools are typically very specialized and can add tremendous value for the money. Check to see what new integrations your software vendor has and see how they may benefit you. In my experience, integrated tools can add significant value to your business and fill gaps in your main system capabilities without the need to change the core PMS.
Continual Staff Training
If you are a real estate agent or broker, you are required to attend continuing education classes to stay current with changes in rules, regulations or best practices. Consider the same with your PMS and the staff that uses it. How many of your current staff were trained by the software vendor? When the existing software was installed the staff made decisions on how to set up the system based on the conditions at that time. Are they still valid?
Use the resources provided by your software vendor to get your key staff trained again. You will discover that things have likely changed, and this will give you the opportunity to better use the system.
Selling to Your New Staff
When new staff members come in to the business, especially at middle and senior management levels, they often lobby to change the core system.
This is usually because new managers are unfamiliar with the system’s capabilities and see the system as inferior. This is not a good enough reason to change. Reach out to the software vendor and have them arrange a presentation to the new managers as if they were selling the system. The vendor should be happy to do this so that he won’t risk losing a client.
Find New Sources for Information and Pick Their Brains
Whether it be new staff or friendly companies that use the same products, find out what they like about the systems and see how you compare. One of the best ways to enhance your systems is with a breath of fresh air from other perspectives.
A number of companies that I know developed relationships with other users of the same system in “non-competitive” markets. They would meet twice a year and have an exchange of staff ideas and knowledge. This was immensely useful in maximizing the use of their systems. Each company has very different solutions to the same issues that challenge all companies, so consider this as a way to help all aspects of your business and not just the software component.
Requesting New Features
Software companies rely on feedback and suggestions to continue to develop their products. This is mostly received during the New Sale process and less from existing clients.
If you have a need for a new feature or a change to an existing one, rather than migrate to a new system, use whatever mechanisms are in place with your existing vendor to have it added to your product.
Not to be confused with Industry Conferences, User Conferences are held by technology providers and can be the most valuable use of your training and travel budgets.
The advantages to you and the vendor are that they are product specific, offer training sessions for your staff, allow you to meet their new partners, and you can attend networking events with companies that are using the same systems.
It is a great venue to suggest new features, learn existing ones and share knowledge of your implementation.
If you are a user and your vendor has a conference – attend!
If they don’t – encourage them to start one – then attend!
Over the years, industry conferences have undergone significant changes both in size and relevance. In the last couple of years, product-specific education opportunities have also increased.
At recent conferences there have been User Events and Product Specific education tracks for sponsors. Reach out to your vendors to see if they are able to provide education either before or after the events. This can save on travel costs for the both of you.
There are many consultants operating in the industry. Ask your software company to recommend one that has an in-depth and current working knowledge of your system. It is important that the knowledge is current, otherwise you will be wasting money and time.
If you get the right one, software consultants can be very useful and generate a great ROI in terms of productivity and efficiency, not to mention increases in guest satisfaction.
It’s All About the Relationship
Changing the key PM Software is a traumatic experience for any company. Most medium to large companies keep their systems for at least five years simply because it is so disruptive to change it.
Keeping a good relationship with your existing vendor is the best way to get the most out of the system. They should be eager to tell you about their system and what it can do for you as well as resolve any issues that you have.
Getting the “Mist” Out of Your Existing System (DYAC)
When I was first asked to write this article, DYAC (Damn You AutoCorrect) got in the way and changed the title from “Getting the Most Out of Your Software” to “Getting the Mist Out of Your Software.” But, on reflection, there is no way of getting rid of mist other than to be patient and wait for the sun to shed some light on it. My suggestion to you is open the doors and let the sun in, shed some light on your existing system and see what it can do for you, hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised.
Doug Macnaught, co-founder of Instant Software and creator of PropertyPlus software has worked in the vacation rental industry for decades to implement integrated technology solutions that allow large vacation rental management companies to operate efficiently and effectively. He is a founding member of The VRM Consultants.